The last stop of our wanderings in Cyclades was Antiparos and the nearby island called Despotiko. It is 50 nautical miles away, in direct course from Anafi. The strong wind, however, caused many troubles to the starboard bow of the rib.
I had great difficulty trying to keep my eyes open, and at the same time to steer the bow with precision between the cracks of the waves. Nevertheless, there were times that this was not possible, and the hits it suffered were quite strong.
Having covered about half of the distance, while the sun had already risen on the horizon, I deviated a little off my course and set sail for the eastern shores of Shoinousa. I was determined not to sail in the south of Paros, where surely the winds would be over 6 Beaufort.
While in Shoinousa I marked the southern cape of Naxos, sailing in a sea that seemed to be sleeping. Once we passed by, though, the winds began to howl again and the sea was already white. The thought of sailing directly to the southern coast of Paros was immediately rejected, because it was certain that we would experience an unnecessary inconvenience while crossing that passage. Staying close to the southwestern coast of Naxos, we luffed through the rough waves which despite that were rather low. While in the narrow passage between Paros - Antiparos the sea looked once more like a lake and setting a high speed now, we crossed quickly its shallow waters.
As we go further up at the close passage of Antiparos the waters become shallower, while in the middle of the passage it is almost ten meters deep, it finally comes to only two meters just before entering the port, but with no reefs or other dangerous spots.
We slowly entered the large bay which is in the northeastern side of the island, which is fully protected from the winds. On the west side there is the port, but we will hardly find a place to tie the boat. The best and most peaceful place to moor is the northern part of the harbor, in front of the hotels where there is a small dock. We need to be careful when we move into the bay, which is full of boats while the water is very shallow.
Alongside the waterfront, there is the wide asphalt road, on which there are many taverns and cafes in a row. Just a few years ago, Antiparos attracted people only occasionally while they were visiting Paros. However, recently it has its own loyal visitors and has actually reached the point of being considered as one of the most cosmopolitan destinations in Cyclades. Each summer, the island is packed with tourists and it is hard for someone to find a room, even in late August.
Apart from the many beautiful beaches, the most important attractions of Antiparos are the central and picturesque stone path that goes through almost the entire Chora, the famous Castle and the cave which is world famous.
The pier where the tourist boats ties, is the point where the stone road begins with whitewashed joints, which continues for several hundred meters finally leading to the Castle. This is the focal point of the island’s life. Shops in a row, small taverns, cafes and bars, welcome the guests who gather from early on at this same road. Very beautiful, traditional Cycladic images emerge at every step, while bougainvilleas stand out. Huge and impressive, they spread their foliage in the whitewashed walls and adorn every corner with their magnificent color. After walking for long and entering every shop to look around, we reached the first small square, which is at the southeast part of the Castle. No one, of course, has the slightest idea that the Castle is located there because similarly to Kimolos and Folegandros, there are no walls or ramparts. The Castle is nothing more than a defensive device of two storey houses attached to one another forming a square block, in which the locals were sheltered. If we turn left from the small square, the main paved road continues and eventually leads us to the main square of Chora. Full of tables from the shops around, it attracts many visitors during the afternoon, while on the north side the church of St. Nicholas rises. A few steps away from the church, there is the main entrance of the Castle. A large stone arch, which seems to be hidden, squeezed among the whitewashed houses, is the only sign that betrays the presence of the Castle. Upon entering the Castle, just across the entrance, there is the circular stone tower which was the residence of the local governor or the ultimate fortification point.
The stone tower is in the centre of the square complex of the Castle, leaving a circular space around it so that the residents can move around. Doors, windows and stairs were only on the inner part of the castle houses. On the outside, the doors and windows were opened later, when the threat of pirates was eliminated. Most houses of the Castle, which was built during the Venetian era, are still inhabited today and they are one of the major attractions of the island and a living monument of its long history.
The Cave of Antiparos is on the southeast side of the island and is nine kilometers away from Chora.
We did not choose to take the bus that sets off from the port, but we visited the island by sailing around it. So early in the morning, we came out of the port heading south.
On the east side of Antiparos there are most of the island’s beaches. They are long sandy beaches, one after the other which attracts most of the people. Near the islet Glaropountas there is Apantima. Behind the small hill with the windmills in the middle of the beautiful pebble beach, there is a small dock. We tied there, because as we estimated with the help of the map, Apantima is the closest point to the Cave. We took the main road just above the coast, and in 30 minutes we reached the top of the hill of Ag. Ioannis. It is quite a steep road, but it is worth the effort. On the right side of the main entrance of the Cave there is the small church of Ag. Ioannis Spiliotis. Almost in the centre of the entrance, there is the huge stalagmite which seems to be supporting the roof and is considered the oldest in Europe. The Cave of Antiparos is known since ancient times, and is the main attraction of the island. About 411 steps, almost vertically, lead us through the impressive formations of the stalactites and stalagmites in the depths of the earth. The descent is amazing and we soon reach the largest room, where there is the “Altar”, “Agia Trapeza”. It is a huge conical stalagmite, where in 1673 the Christmas service was performed with the presence of the French ambassador in Constantinople and almost all the inhabitants of the island.
After leaving Apantima, we find small successive shores and the beautiful beaches Soros and Peramataki, which attract many visitors.
Passing by the southern cape called Petalida, we began to sail upwards to the southwest part of the island, which is the most impressive. The smooth lowland coasts of the east side are succeeded by cliffs that fall vertically into the sea creating beautiful caves and small pebbled shores. Here is the enclosed bay of Despotiko, considered to be “the king” of the shelters. It is actually a narrow channel located between the eastern coast of the islet of Despotiko and the south coasts of Antiparos. The northwest entrance of the channel is closed by the small islet Tsimintiri, thus forming a large bay that is completely sheltered from the north winds. On the south part of the islet Tsimintiri there is a very beautiful small beach, while on either side of the islet there are two small passages. We can cross the western passage safely, but in the east the water is very shallow and it is necessary to be careful. However, we can cross it if we keep close to the island, where the depth is almost two meters. Across the bay of Despotiko, the bottom is sandy and the water shallow. Totally protected from the winds, it is a wonderful place to rest on our way to the southeastern Cyclades and the Dodecanese. Besides it was always a passage for boats, since the trading sailing vessels which found shelter here when the weather was rough. So today, many yachts moor in a row, waiting for the weather to calm, so that they can continue their voyage. On the eastern side of the bay that is on the coasts of Antiparos, there is the small village of Ag. Georgios, which is consisting mainly of summer houses. During the winter there are seven to eight families living here, while on the coast there are two taverns and a cafe full of people at summertime.
Coming out of the western passage of the islet Tsimintiri we left behind the peaceful bay of Despotiko, but we planned to return in the evening for an overnight stay. We continued our voyage to the western coasts of Antiparos though the wind out of Tsimintiri was over five Beaufort. In less than two miles from the bay of Despotiko, in the middle of Antiparos, there is the deep bay of the Monastiria. Its entrance is parallel to the southwest wind, so it is a very safe shelter from the winds. In the inner part of the creek there is an extended and usually deserted beach, which is embellished with many reeds. The water is shallow, but the bottom is full of stones and perhaps this is why the beach is empty of people. Right above Monastiria, there is one more bay, which leads to a deep gorge. In its inner part there is a beautiful deserted beach with green water. From now on, the coasts are rocky with no special feature, except for the beaches of Livadi and Sifneiko but they are exposed to the strong north winds. Reaching the north side of Antiparos, we sailed through the narrow channel which is formed on the south of the islet Diplou, and stretches for about half a mile. The water here is very shallow and many swimmers cross the channel on foot. The deepest point is not more than one meter and is on the side that overlooks Antiparos. This is the only part where we can cruise.
We chose this uninhabited island to spend our last night before we end our beautiful wandering around Cyclades. On the southern part of Despotiko there are two picturesque coves that are very well protected from the winds. We spent the whole day in the lovely beach of Livadi, which is in the inner part of the bay that shares the same name. The enchanting waters of the well-shaped coast and the wet, grey, fine sand that stretches for about hundred meters towards the mainland create beautiful scenery. We prepared the rib for our return, and every once in a while we dived in the crystal clear waters. We would really love to spend the night here, but the swell that the north wind brought to the coast forced us to change our plans. We moved a bit further east, where there is the second beautiful bay on the south side of Despotiko. It is called Dihalo, because of its shape. At the far end of the extended bay, two very small and narrow inlets are formed, where the boats can moor safely even when the winds are over 7 Beaufort. In the eastern one there is no beach, so we preferred the west, where a beautiful little beach is formed. It is an Ideal place to spend the night, an even better bay than that of Despotiko, since near the coast, the sea remains smooth even when the biting gusts blow, after the first fifty meters off the beach.